SKIMPROV

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Isobel Cockerell

at 02:17 on 15th Aug 2014

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Skimprov was a 5 man sketch show with, as the title suggests, bouts of improvisation thrown in (sketches plus improv equals skimprov…geddit?) The first and most obvious observation from this performance was that the crowd absolutely loved it. Jed Marshall lead the action, and in his sheer zeal he whipped the audience into a flurry of excitement. Perhaps it was simply a good day, but there is no doubt that this show had one of the most dynamic atmospheres to be found anywhere at the Fringe.

Laugh followed ecstatic laugh and it was immediately made clear that this kind of comedy is very accessible to the masses: family friendly, larger than life, broadly appealing. It’s at times slapstick and a little clumsy, but always easy to follow. The chances are you’ll find it pretty funny.

The premise of the show involved a variety of pre-prepared sketches, thrown into a hat and offered to the audience to choose at random. With each sketch lasting barely more than a minute, it was a pacy, original and exciting way of doing things. However, this group would do well to focus on quality over quantity: there was a dizzying amount of the former and not enough of the latter. Often the sketches fell a little flat – although it has to be said the rest of the audience didn’t seem to mind, in fact it felt like they would have laughed at anything. It was almost disconcerting. There is no denying that some of the sketches were touched by genius, however.

A particular stand out was a hilarious and witty sketch about the evil power of facebook. It was cuttingly accurate and the all-too-brief highlight of the show. As for the improv, there is certainly better to be found at the fringe. The group kept blocking each other and needed frequent prompts and what they called ‘backspaces’: it just didn’t run smoothly at all and wasn’t particularly impressive.

Comedy is, of course, a subjective thing, and while the laughter was continually uproarious, it wasn’t necessarily unanimous. The humour was based in a broad range of topics and in being so it perhaps wouldn’t, on the whole, appeal to those looking for something more subtle. Come to Skimprov to have a good time, but if its knife-edged wit you want, look elsewhere. This group have undeniable stage presence, and with a little refinement of the quality of some of their sketches and a lot of practice on their frankly clumsy improv, they could do great things.

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Ben Hickey

at 10:27 on 15th Aug 2014

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Skimprov is a blend of sketch comedy and improvisation from the University of Southampton’s comedy quintet ‘Masters of None’. As the name unfortunately suggests, Skimprov is a group trying their hand at two comedic disciplines without really injecting enough craft and nuance to master either.

The sketches – of which the audience decide the running order through picking the sketches’ decidedly ambiguous titles from a hat – are centred around the laziness of twenty-first century society and our love for consumerism. Selecting the running order at random does highlight that these comics do have this strong connecting thread running throughout their work but they are largely fairly tame, such as a parody of a football perfume (?) with the tagline ‘smell like balls.’ These pieces aim for a kind of mad absurdism but end up coming across as more than a little puerile. That said, there are some examples of the troupe taking conservative comedic subjects like the suffocating power of Facebook and using techniques such as personification to make us consider the trappings of our technology-driven lives in a new light.

Where the show does become more engaging is in its middle section, devoted to simple and direct improvisation games. The premises for these, such as an unwitting cast member trying to guess what well-known historical event he has stumbled into, are often intriguing, but they allow too much scope for audience participation and suggestion. Repeatedly requesting audience proposals during their improvisation means that the quintet leave themselves with too many random elements to tie into a funny narrative under time pressure.

Equally frustrating is the fact that each comedian’s skill set is geared towards either sketch comedy or improvisation, but not both. Danny McNamee, for example, is the quickest of the five and manages to engineer laughs from challenging source material but his acting doesn’t compare with that of Joe Hart, a stand-up by trade whose clipped, Izzard-like delivery lends itself more to the carefully controlled comedy environment of a scripted sketch. Herein lies the central problem behind this performance: while each of the cast members undoubtedly possesses comic talent, you are hard pressed to find a moment during which they are all at their element on stage and especially in the case of constructing demanding improvisation scenarios this proves to be problematic.

This is the five’s Fringe debut and the show’s inconsistent pacing – maybe all that is required is a greater understanding of where their strengths lie and how to manage an Edinburgh hour. As it stands, ‘Skimprov’ doesn’t quite contain the raw talent and the experience necessary to carry off the juggling of sketches and improvisation.

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